Injuries mar a strong performance from the Hawks, which ended in an unfortunate defeat to Sheffield Eagles in Doncaster
The Eagles kicked off with the Hawks looking well up for the game – Brad Brennan’s run taking the team across half way. The game instantly looking set not to go in the Hawks’ favour, as a penalty on the fifth tackle gifted the Eagles their first possession just 20 meters away from the try line.
The Hawks defence were ready for the onrushing Eagles and stood firm, the ball eventually thrown away in desperation by Hunslet who started on their own ten.
With just minutes played things took a tough turn for the worse, when Jimmy Keinhorst was on the receiving end of a particularly strong tackle meaning the German had to leave the field.
The Eagles looked to capitalise on the misfortune and shifted up a gear in attack, with the Hawks’ line taking a battering, the goal line defence fantastic in the face of the attacks, then finally after 9 minutes of pressure the Eagles’ grubber rebounding off numerous players legs was gathered in by Taulapapa in the corner to open the scoring, the kick from Pat Walker taking the early score to 6-0.
The Hawks’ defence was again tested from the kick off, the Hawks struggling with the offloads of the Eagles, the speed of the home side a big issue as they continued to attack the Hawks.
When the Hawks did get chances to attack, the Eagles defence managed to contain the attacks, allowing them to complete their sets and send kicks towards the waiting backs who were breaking the line and troubling the visitors.
On 14 minutes Quentin Laulu Togage broke through the Hunslet line, off-loading to Misi Taulapapa who pushed his way across the line to double the score and his tally for the day. Walker’s kick again successful, the Eagles now 12-0 in the lead.
The Hawks were shocked and with the onrushing Eagles every attack was more and more dangerous, the Hawks’ goal line defence the only reason the home side weren’t even further into the lead.
The Hawks were stuck in their own half on both attack and defence until in the 23rd minute Jack Lee became the second of what would eventually become a long list of injuries.
The second injury and the introduction of George Flanagan looked to spur on the Hawks. A kick from Simon Brown pinned the Eagles back on their own 5, but the Eagles weren’t ready to lie down without a fight though kicking a 40/20, Vinny Finigan’s outstretched arms struggling to prevent ball from crossing the touchline.
The Eagles now deep in Hawks territory on the attack soon appeared to have scored another try, but the referee called them back for a blatant forward pass in the build up. The Hawks attack was well matched by the Eagles defence and the resulting kick was easily gathered up by Togagae who ran the ball straight back at the Hawks.
Togagae dropped the ball as he entered the Hawks’ 20, the Hawks attempting to use the free play kicked the ball that was loose on the floor and looked to chase it, Flanagan set off to chase the ball but was dragged back before he could take off, the temperature of the game began to rise as tempers flared, Flanagan none too pleased with being held back on the chase.
As half time approached the Hawks were struggling to complete tackles and were making silly errors that had so far cost them dearly, with the clock ticking down Ansell released a high bomb, Togagae collected the ball but a great chase from Watson saw the Samoan tackled under the posts. The referee blew for a penalty, the Hawks on the fortuitous end of the call, the players and fans were unsure of why though, until the referee produced a Red Card. Taulapapa the scorer of both Sheffield tries had head butted George Flanagan.
The Hawks elected to go for the 2 points, Ansell kicking the penalty to end the half.
The Hawks kicked off for the second half and as in previous games looked a completely different team, their speed in attack now a major factor in them gaining solid yards. The Hawks on the attack tried to keep the ball alive as it was spread out wide, but the final pass was delivered into the arms of the waiting Sheffield players.
Totally against the run of play Sheffield countered quickly, Steven Thorpe finding a gap with Togagae in support, the support run proving pivotal as he received the ball to cross the line. Walker again converts the try, the Eagles now 18-2 in the lead.
The Eagles received the ball from kick off. Brad Brenan forced a knock on – the Hawks on the attack looking to regain some points just moments after the try from the home side. The Hawks now on top of the line were awarded a penalty, Mikey Haley got the first chance to attack, but was held on the line. The ball was played quickly and Rob Mulhern took himself and a number of defenders across the line with him to score, the kick from Danny Ansell adding the extras the Hawks now only 10 points behind, 18-8.
The Eagles attacked from the kick off much like the Hawks did, the Hawks knocking the ball on and Sheffield gaining great territory.
Much like with the Hawks attack just minutes earlier the Eagles powered their way over to score, Michael Knowles on the receiving end of a pass out wide. The kick at an acute angle was a difficult one for Pat Walker who hit the post with the kick. The score 22-8 with 52 minutes played.
The Hawks were nearly on the end of another counter try this time directly from kick off, a poorly handled kick nearly finding the way into the hands of a Hawks player, the scrambling Eagles just managing to force the ball out and concede a goal line drop out, the Hawks couldn’t muster anything in the attack following, both teams matching each other attack for attack and defence.
The Hawks began to look more and more dangerous as the game progressed, a great kick and chase in the 63rd minute forcing a knock on the Hawks just 10 meters from the line with just 15 minutes left in the game.
The Hawks struggled to break the line during the set, but the kick across field to Duckworth looked menacing. The kick was dealt with by the Eagles but illegally – the young winger had been tackled in the air to prevent the try. The Hawks took the tap on and George Flanagan dived over to score, the kick from Ansell curling its way through the posts to bring the game to within 8 points of the Hawks now looking the stronger team despite missing numerous players.
The Hawks pressure on the home side was really telling, the final pass the only thing missing from their game, with successive possessions deep in the Eagles’ half, the Hawks were throwing everything at the line but luck and other factors weren’t on their side, Jack Lee loosing the ball on the line very unlucky, the pressure on the Eagles alleviated by the knock on call.
The Hawks next possession didn’t end as they would have wanted either, the ball coming loose in a tackle ruled as a knock on, the Eagles wasted the free play and got a set of 6 from a scrum just 20 meters out.
The Eagles looked to have crossed the line for another try, but the ball was spilled in an attempt to ground it. The referee however giving a penalty and a fresh set of 6 to the home side, the Hawks now under extreme pressure – holding up two attacks on their line, but they couldn’t contain the third as Kyle Briggs found his way through to score, the kick from Walker again good, the home side 28-14 ahead only minutes remaining.
The Hawks recovered the high and short kick off and looked to narrow the gap and potentially take something from the game. The Hawks worked to within meters of the line, Jack Lee and Brad Brennan attempting to force the ball over. Ansell then placed a kick into the corner, Briscoe collecting the ball to surely score, the referee called a goal line drop out with just over a minute remaining.
The Hawks received the drop out and Brad Brennan looked to force the ball forwards and find a score. Liam Mackay was next pushing forward another 15 meters, the Hawks now unable to win but a consolation score their goal, Adam Yates next took the ball and looked to spread it, typical of the game as a whole though a pass intended for George Flanagan hit him in the face, bouncing straight into the defences awaiting arms.
As time ran out Sheffield made their way back down the field, completing the set as time ran out, the ball thumped into touch as the hooter sounded. Final score 28-14.
Speaking after the game Barry Eaton spoke of his pride in how the team performed despite the difficult result.
“We lost Jimmy Keinhorst after a minute, on top of that we lost Andy Kain pre – match with a sickness bug, then we lost Josh Walters after about 12 minutes, Callum Casey has a torn calf before half time, Jack Lee with a broken nose, Micky Haley with broken ribs. We have gone through the wars today, but the effort and commitment, I couldn’t be any prouder.”
Sheffield: Quentin Laula Togagae, Scott Turner, Menzie Yere, Sam Smeaton, Misi Taulapapa, Kyle Briggs, Cory Aston, Eddie Battye, Keal Carlile, Tony Tonks, Michael Knowles, John Davies, Pat Walker. Subs- James Davey, Mitch Stringer, Oliver Roberts, Steven Thorpe.
Hunslet: Jimmy Watson, Vinny Finigan, Jimmy Keinhorst, Danny Maun, James Duckworth, Simon Brown, Danny Ansell, Andy Yates, Jack Lee, Brad Brennan, Callum Casey, Josh Walters, Liam Mackay. Subs- George Flanagan, Michael Haley, Rob Mulhern, Luke Briscoe.